As a writer, I'm always looking for inspiration, and this can come from the strangest of places. My days are spent walking that tightrope between keeping my monkey mind quiet while simultaneously trying to be amped up and creative. There's a great quote by Pablo Picasso that describes this artistic paradox, "Inspiration exists, but it has to find your working."
It really is an enchanted process because I've had to learn to get out of my own way and simply have faith that the next thing I want to write about will appear. I'll give you an idea what this looks like. Yesterday I was meeting a colleague at a local coffee shop, and I noticed written in elegant script on the sandwich board outside the cafe the following quote attributed to reggae icon Bob Marley: "The truth is everyone is going to hurt you; you just have to find the ones worth suffering for." It resonated with me so strongly because lately I've been reading and writing a lot about resiliency and to whether or not it's even possible to nurture strategies and behaviors that, in some way, make us "bulletproof" or at least less vulnerable to life's challenges.
I see little merit to being "bulletproof" or walking in a self-constructed "invisibility blanket" because donning that protective armor comes at cost -- isolating or distancing myself from others. After spending almost 40 years burdened by the secret that I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and all of the energy involved in shielding that part of me from public view, I no longer have the desire to live in the shadows of a protective veil. I don't necessarily find a solution in communion with others, but I do find a reprieve from my isolation. Ultimately, it is in this space of connection, that personal challenge may ultimately be a bridge to transformation.
I've begun to make a subtle distinction between being resilient, which has its roots in the 17th century Latin word "resilire" meaning "leaping back," vs. being buoyant, derived from French and Spanish meaning "to float." To me, the metaphor of being able to "float" through the tumultuous seas of life's stormy periods is something to which I aspire. It accurately reflects many times in my life where I've had hardships wash over me, but at no time have I allowed them to push me completely under. Unlike "resilience" which conjures up battling through crises, "buoyancy" entails living life on life's terms without succumbing to the rough patches.
I've put together a list five guiding principles that I rely on to nurture buoyancy in my relationships and in my overall outlook on life.
1. Be motivated by choice -- Not manipulated by voice
Substantive personal transformation is definitely not for the faint at heart. What sideswipes a lot people who seek to make changes in their life is the backlash they receive by those closest to them. This is often coming from a place of fear in those who lack the fortitude to make necessary changes in their own lives. The great Teddy Roosevelt said, "It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things."
2. Surround yourself with a tribe -- Don't let your family prescribe
For years, I sought out my family's validation for what I am and what I do. The sad reality is that I was continually left feeling unsupported and insecure. The more I speak out about my "distance" from my birth family, the more I hear from others who share a similar toxic relationship with their family members. I now realize that "family" can be whatever I choose it to be -- and today, my family is composed of primarily my wife and son and friends who support me wholeheartedly for who I am. As Richard Bach says, "The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but or respect and joy in each other's life."
3. Align with the unafraid -- Not a pity parade
It's very tempting for me to retreat when life gets a little complicated and scary, but that leads to only one place -- the "poor me-s." Misery really does love company, and having more people join into the "tragedy play" only makes everything worse and creates an even bigger hole to dig yourself out of. I choose to surround myself with survivors who turn into the wind and keep the shadows at bay.
4. Let go of anger for this day -- Why risk being caught in its fray
I discovered very earlier on in my recovery from drug and alcohol addiction that holding on to resentment was a one-way ticket to a relapse. In the words of Catherine Ponder, one of America's foremost inspirational authors, "When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free."
5. Bring out the best in your worst -- Perfection's bubble is yours to burst
Maintaining the illusion of perfection is definitely a fool's game, and one that will surely sap you of all your energy. If I want people to forgive my "life blemishes," I need to embrace everyone else's "niggly bits" too. One of my favorite scenes in the movie "Shirley Valentine" is midway through the movie when Shirley, in the throws of a midlife crisis, is being rhapsodized by a swarthy Greek sailor who much to Shirley's dismay, while lovingly kissing her stretch marks declares: "They show that you are alive, that you have given life; don't be ashamed of these marks. They are beautiful."
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.